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St. Gertrude to build ‘field of dreams’ in Henrico

St. Gertrude High School students gather at the site of what will become the school’s new athletic complex in Henrico County.
It took nearly a century, but the St. Gertrude High School “Gertie Girls” will finally have fields of their own – and a presence in Henrico County.

At a fundraising campaign kick-off held April 28, parents, students, alumnae and friends of the school gathered at the site of a future athletic complex off Park Central Drive to envision the soccer fields, softball diamond and tennis courts soon to take shape. In addition to a turf field for soccer, field hockey and lacrosse, the Outdoor Athletic Center will boast a grass field, concession stand, restrooms, storage space, athletic training room, meeting room and a walking path that can be used by the cross country team.

The complex will be a godsend for families and staff at SGHS, who have relied on a cobbled-together network of rented and borrowed playing fields, a handful of buses and “the patience of our parents” to keep track of the teams’ whereabouts and schedules, said Margaret Shibley, director of alumnae & public relations.

“Our students play in 12 different places; our buses are going all over town,” said Shibley. “We’re at Byrd [Park] for tennis matches; we’re practicing at Humphrey Calder [Community Center]. We play soccer and lacrosse at St. Joseph’s Villa, and we’re at Dumbarton for softball.”

Among the alumnae at the kick-off ceremony was Joanne McDonald, who played field hockey at St. Gertrude in the 1960s – when finding a playing field was considerably simpler.

“Back in our day there just wasn’t the amount of [athletic] associations; there were not as many people vying for space,” said McDonald. When she watched softball games at Humphrey Calder back then, said McDonald, “It felt like our own private little field.”

But in recent decades, as St. Gertrude athletic programs grew and community organizations multiplied, the land-locked school on Stuart Avenue in Richmond found itself with no room to expand its fields.

The committee of SGHS staff and alumnae that went in search of a site walked some 40 different properties, said Susan Walker, the school president. And with 20 minutes travel time established as the outside limit of distance from the school, Henrico County sites were high on the list.

“This is only an 11-minute drive from the school,” said Walker of the Center site, noting that St. Gertrude has students hailing from 20 different zip codes. “This way, no one has to go too far.”

The 16-acre tract is not only easily accessible from Interstates 95 and 295, said alumna Leslie Koenig Stack, but also adjoins the former Best Products parcel recently purchased by Henrico County that has been proposed for use as administrative offices. “It’s going to be a real win-win for us,” said Stack, whose two daughters also attended St. Gertrude.

Susan McNamara, chair of the board of trustees, noted that the land was also the site of the proposed NASCAR Hall of Fame, which ended up locating in Charlotte, N.C.

“So, obviously,” exclaimed Stack, “that wasn’t meant to be!”

All zoning has been approved for the athletic center, and officials at the 90-year-old school are ready to start building – as soon as enough funds are raised. If the campaign can attract an additional one million dollars in donations by July 1, said Walker at the kick-off, “We can be playing on this field by fall.”

“So I want you now to imagine these fields alive with the shouts of our Gertie Girls,” Walker told the gathering of alumnae and parents, adding that when she first opened up the architectural rendering of the center on her computer, she had almost cried.

“The buses will all be in one spot,” she told the audience. “The trainer will be in one spot.

“And now you parents will know where your daughters are. You won’t have to look at the website to know where to find them.”


Community

Garden tails

The threat of bad weather didn’t keep visitors away from Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden July 10 for the facility’s weekly Flowers After 5 event (which pairs music and food with a chance to stroll the garden) and its monthly Fidos After 5 (which allows dog owners to bring their pets with them to enjoy the evening). > Read more.

Western Henrico Rotary helps fund Midwives For Haiti Jeep


Thanks in part to a $10,000 gift from the Western Henrico Rotary Club, another bright pink Jeep modified to travel extremely rough terrain has been delivered to Midwives For Haiti so that more pregnant women in the quake-ravaged country will have access to prenatal care and a greater chance of surviving childbirth.

The funds were raised at the annual casino night held in February, club president Adam Cherry said. The Rotary Club also helped purchase the Virginia-based charity’s first pink jeep three years ago. > Read more.

Agencies combine on new entry point to Chickahominy


Canoeing and kayaking enthusiasts soon will have a new access point to the Chickahominy River. VDOT, the James River Association and Henrico County Parks and Recreation are teaming up to establish a new site in Eastern Henrico.

The James River Association negotiated the deal with VDOT to procure official access to the area located just east of I-295 on North Airport Road in Sandston. The site includes a park-and-ride commuter lot bordering the Chickahominy River and has been an unofficial launch site used by paddlers for years. > Read more.

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Entertainment

Weekend Top 10


An eclectic array of events are taking place this weekend throughout the county. In the West End, we have the Richmond Wedding Expo, the Under the Stars Family Film Series and Henrico Theatre Company’s production of “Pump Boys and Dinettes.” In the eastern part of the county, we have a blood drive at the Eastern Henrico Recreation Center, Gallmeyer Farm’s annual Sweet Corn Festival and an origami workshop at Fairfield Library. For all our top picks this weekend, click here! > Read more.

New Italian restaurant opens in Short Pump

Charlottesville's Bella’s Restaurant recently opened a location in Short Pump Village, at 11408 West Broad Street. The restaurant is owned by Valeria Biesnti, a native of Rome who arrived in the U.S. at age 21 and later became a U.S. citizen. With her restaurants, Bisenti has sought to create an ambiance that welcomes diners in a casual setting, like her favorites from her hometown. > Read more.

Henrico native to appear on Travel Channel show


A Henrico native will appear on the third episode of the Travel Channel's new grilling competition series “American Grilled.”

The episode, filmed in Charlottesville, will premier July 16 at 9 p.m. and feature Glen Allen-native Rex Holmes, a patent lawyer who operates http://SavoryReviews.com a blo,g centered around tasty recipes and BBQ.

The show features hardcore grilling enthusiasts from across the country going head-to-head for a chance to compete for a $10,000 cash prize and bragging rights when they are crowned the ultimate “grill master.” > Read more.

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Learn about slime and its basic ingredients in a series of hands-on activities at 2 p.m. at Fairfield Library, 1001 N. Laburnum Ave. Includes a take home science project, “Slime… Full text

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